The Hope football team is going to play for a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championship as well as a berth in the NCAA Division III Playoffs.
The Flying Dutchmen won at Trine 35-7 on Saturday to stay one game behind first-place Albion in the MIAA standings, with Albion coming to Ray & Sue Smith Stadium on Nov. 16.
"We are right where we need to be," Hope coach Dean Kreps said. "This sets up a big showdown with Albion at our place. We are looking forward to the bye week. I want to give our coaches and players some much needed rest.
"I am so excited for what lies ahead. We are coaching exceptional kids. I've said that all along. I love this team. I really do. We are very fortunate."
Hope improved to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in MIAA play. Albion (7-2, 4-0) plays at Adrian next week then faces the Flying Dutchmen.
Against Trine, Hope scored 35 unanswered points after the Thunder took its first drive down for a touchdown.
Senior quarterback Michael Atwell of Geneseo, Ill. (Geneseo HS) threw for 316 yards on three touchdowns while completing 18-of-28 passes.
Senior receiver Vincent Boddy of West Bloomfield (West Bloomfield HS) collected six receptions for a game-high 158 yards and two touchdowns. He hauled in touchdowns catches of 27 yards in the second quarter and 60 yards in the third quarter.
Atwell also connected with junior receiver Taylor Brynaert of Washington (Romeo HS) for a 10-yard touchdown late in the first half.
The Flying Dutchmen also scored on a 21-yard touchdown run by senior Shawn Jackson of Comstock Park (Comstock Park HS) in the first quarter and a 4-yard touchdown run by freshmanZach Boersema of Holland (West Ottawa HS) in the third quarter.
Hope limited Trine to 197 passing yards and 119 rushing yards.
The Flying Dutchmen blocked two field goal attempts.
"We had a broken coverage on the first drive. Take that out and I thought our defense was outstanding all day," Kreps said. "The fact that Trine scored on its first possession led me to believe that we could be in for a dog fight. (Kicker) Evan Finch was good from there, but I thought we needed to make a statement on offense, and we did.
"Stephen Gerger, Kirby Crook and Greg Bird all played well today. The front guys were able to keep pressure on and Kirby played his usual great game."
Bird, a senior defensive end from Byron Center (Byron Center HS), and Crook, a junior defensive back from Beech Grove, Ind. (Beech Grove HS), both finished with a team-high eight tackles.